MARCELO Eleadora was one year old when an influenza pandemic, infamously known as Spanish flu, spread worldwide, killing more than 50 million people from 1918 to 1919.
Over a century later, the Mindanao native—now aged 103 and relocated in Toledo City, Cebu—is living through another pandemic—the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
The Spanish flu did not originate in Spain, which got tagged with the killer name during the end of World War I because it was the first country to report the disease publicly, according to The Washington Post.
In the Philippines, the influenza pandemic infected four million Filipinos and took 80,000 lives. The infant Eleadora survived; his parents told him in his adult years about the pandemic and he retold the story to his children, including Pablo, who is now 73.
Now as the world is fighting another pandemic, Pablo said journalism plays a vital role in informing the public about Covid-19, which has infected more than five million worldwide and killed over 300,000 as of Thursday, May 21, 2020, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In 1918, most Filipinos had no access to newspapers and they did not know how to protect themselves against the disease. The lack of knowledge on the flu contributed to the fatal pandemic, Pablo said.
Eleadora’s family was living in a mountain village of an island in Mindanao at the time of the 1918 flu pandemic. He is now living in Barangay Canlumampao, Toledo City.
Aside from getting information from print and broadcast media in the 21st century, the public can access stories, genuine or fake, on social media and news websites.
Thanks to the journalists, the Cebuanos are aware about Covid-19, Pablo said.
“Makaiwas gyud ta kay naa may media nga magpahibaw mao ni buhaton (We can avoid getting the disease because the media keeps on informing us on what to do),” he said.
Pablo said he was told by his father that in 1918, there was no such thing as social distancing and masks were not worn by Filipinos. (SunStar Cebu tried to interview the elder Eleadora. However, his family members asked this media outfit to interview Pablo instead.)
Pablo said he himself saw the leprosy and smallpox outbreaks in Cebu in the past. Back then, he said people often neglected the outbreaks of infectious diseases because they were not fully informed.
For someone who saw outbreaks, and with a father who lived during the 1918 influenza pandemic, Pablo encouraged the public to get information from legitimate news sources and follow health protocol.
“Hadlok sa una kay wa may magpahibaw (It was dreadful before because there was no reliable stream of information),” Pablo said.